College Football Conference Championship Saturday

Published 11:49 pm Friday, December 3, 2021

Big Ten Conference

No. 2 Michigan (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten, No. 2 CFP) vs. No. 15 Iowa (10-2, 7-2, No. 13), Saturday at 8 p.m. EST (Fox) in Indianapolis.

Line: Michigan by 10 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Series record: Michigan leads 42-15-4

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Iowa returns to the title game for the first time since 2015 and the second time in the 11-year history of the event. The Hawkeyes have won three of four trophy games this season and a fourth would give them their first conference crown since 2004. Michigan, meanwhile, makes its first Lucas Oil Stadium appearance. Everyone wants to see how the Wolverines react after an emotional victory over Ohio State.

KEY MATCHUP

Michigan’s running game vs. Iowa’s run defense. This matchup may rekindle images of a long-ago Big Ten era. The Wolverines have the league’s most productive ground game (224.9 yards per game, ninth in the FBS) and a pair of dominant backs. Hassan Haskins is second among conference runners with 1,232 yards and his five TD runs last week gave him a share of the league lead (18). Blake Corum is eighth in the conference despite missing two games and needs 135 yards to reach 1,000. The Hawkeyes allow 103.8 yards rushing (14th nationally).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Michigan: DE Aidan Hutchinson. He had three sacks in the win over Ohio State, which hadn’t given up more than two sacks in a game, to set a single-season record at the school with 13. Pro Football Focus ranks him the No. 1 NFL prospect

Iowa: QB Spencer Petras. After making 17 consecutive starts, a shoulder injury forced the junior out Nov. 6. Alex Padilla started the next three games before Petras returned for the second half last week. All Petras did was rally Iowa from a 21-6 deficit, capping what turned out to be a West Division-clinching victory with the decisive 2-yard scoring run with 2:58 to play.

FACTS & FIGURES

Michigan has won four straight and will play its first game in Indianapolis in more than a century. The Wolverines two previous games in Indy were an 18-0 victory over DePauw 18-0 in 1892 and a 22-0 victory over Wabash in 1907. … The Hawkeyes have beaten three ranked teams this season and six in a row overall, the second-longest active streak in the FBS (Alabama, 10). … The Wolverines won the last meeting between these schools (10-3 in October 2019) but have lost five of the last seven. … Iowa needs two interceptions to break the school’s single-season school record (23), which was done previously in 1986, 1987 and 2008. … Hawkeyes RB Tyler Goodson went over the 1,000-yard mark by rushing for 156 yards in last week’s victory. … Haskins needs one TD run to tie Ron Johnson’s single-season school record (19), which has stood since 1968. … Iowa LB Jack Campbell ranks second in the Big Ten with 124 tackles.

Southeastern Conference

Georgia (12-0, 8-0 SEC, No. 1 CFP) vs. No. 4 Alabama (11-1, 7-1, No. 3), Saturday at 4 p.m. EST (CBS).

Line: Georgia by 6 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Series record: Alabama leads 41-25-4.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Alabama is playing for a spot in the College Football Playoff, though it is possible the Crimson Tide could make the four-team field even with a loss to the Bulldogs. Georgia is playing to protect its No. 1 ranking in the playoff but likely is assured of a spot even if its loses to Alabama.

KEY MATCHUP

Alabama LB Will Anderson Jr. vs. Georgia’s offensive line. Anderson is tied for the national lead with 14.5 sacks and his 30.5 tackles for loss are 8.5 more than any other player. Georgia’s offensive line has provided QB Stetson Bennett with good protection despite senior LT Jamaree Salyer missing the last four games with a foot injury. Freshman Broderick Jones has gained valuable experience as the fill-in starter for Salyer. Georgia, which has allowed only eight sacks, will need its best blockers against an Alabama pass rush led by Anderson.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Georgia: Freshman TE Brock Bowers has provided perhaps the best production at his position in team history. Bowers leads the Bulldogs with 37 catches for 652 yards. His 10 touchdown catches also lead the team and have set a school record for a tight end. Wide receiver Terrence Edwards set a school record for any position with 11 scoring catches in 2002.

Alabama: RB Brian Robinson Jr. ranks third in the SEC with 1,016 yards rushing, but his status is uncertain due to a left leg injury. Robinson has rushed for 14 touchdowns and has added 29 catches for 252 yards and two touchdowns. Robinson’s production, and Alabama’s lack of depth at the position, makes his status crucial to the Crimson Tide’s hopes.

FACTS & FIGURES

Since 2006, the only year the winner of the SEC championship game did not play in the national championship game was in 2014. … Alabama is playing for its 29th SEC championship and third in the last four years. Georgia is playing for its 14th SEC title and first since 2017. … Alabama’s six consecutive wins over Georgia include two in the SEC championship game. The Crimson Tide took a 41-24 home win over Georgia last season. … This is the fourth consecutive season the nation’s top-ranked team has played in the game. … Georgia leads the nation in scoring defense, allowing 6.9 points per game. The Bulldogs closed the regular season with their third shutout, a 45-0 win over Georgia Tech. … Georgia trailed only four times this season, including only once after the first quarter and never in the second half. … The Bulldogs were undefeated in the regular season for the first time since 1982 and are 12-0 for the first time since their 1980 national championship season.

Atlantic Coast Conference

No. 17 Pittsburgh (10-2, 7-1 ACC, No. 17 CFP) vs No. 18 Wake Forest (10-2, 7-1, No. 18), Saturday at 8 p.m. EST (ABC), at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.

Line: Pitt by 2 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Series record: Pitt leads 1-0.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

The Atlantic Coast Conference championship and the honor of officially ending Clemson’s dominant six-year run as champs. The Tigers represented the ACC in the College Football Playoffs for six straight years, but this year’s ACC champion won’t be headed to the playoffs. However, the winner of this game will be attending a more prestigious bowl game than the loser.

KEY MATCHUP

Pitt QB Kenny Pickett vs. Wake Forest’s secondary: Pickett threw for 40 touchdown passes this season, breaking Dan Marino’s school record of 37. That leaves him one shy of the ACC record set by Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, which was established over the course of a 15-game season in 2016. Pickett has thrown 79 career TD passes, tied with Marino for the most in school history. He faces a Wake Forest secondary that has been suspect as the season has gone along.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Pitt: WR Jordan Addison is producing at an All-America level. A Biletnikoff Award finalist, Addison leads the country with 17 touchdown catches. That is the most by a Pitt player since 2003 when Larry Fitzgerald had a school-record 22.

Wake Forest: QB Sam Hartman threw for 3,711 yards with 34 touchdowns and 10 interceptions this season. Hartman may be listed as a sophomore, but he’s more experienced than you might think having already played in four different seasons for the Demon Deacons.

FACTS & FIGURES

Wake Forest is 1-0 in the championship game, beating Georgia Tech 9-6 in a defensive struggle in 2006. … Pitt previously played in the title game in 2018, losing to eventual College Football Playoff champion Clemson 42-10. … Pitt won the only other matchup between the teams 34-13 in 2018. … Since 2015, coach Pat Narduzzi has directed Pitt to 36 victories in ACC play, the third-highest win total during that span. Only Clemson (52) and Miami (37) have won more. … After starting the season 9-0, Wake Forest has gone 2-2 since allowing 158 points during that span. The losses came to North Carolina and Clemson.

BIG 12 Conference

No. 5 Oklahoma State (11-1, 8-1 Big 12, No. 5 CFP) vs. No. 9 Baylor (10-2, 7-2, No. 9), Saturday at noon EST (ABC) in Arlington, Texas.

Line: Oklahoma State by 5 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Series record: Oklahoma State leads 22-18.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Oklahoma State is playing in its first Big 12 title game. A win would keep the Cowboys in contention for a possible spot in the College Football Playoff, depending on what the teams ahead of them in the CFP rankings — Georgia, Michigan, Alabama and Cincinnati — do in their conference title games. Baylor, which lost to Oklahoma State 24-14 on Oct. 2, is playing in its second Big 12 title game in three years. The Bears could go to the Sugar Bowl with a win, or even with a loss like two years ago after they lost in the league title game to an Oklahoma squad that reached the playoff.

KEY MATCHUP

Baylor running back Abram Smith, the Big 12’s second-leading rusher, against the nation’s sixth-best rushing defense. Smith had 97 yards rushing on 10 carries, including one for 55 yards, in the first meeting with Oklahoma State. He averages 113.8 yards rushing per game with 12 TDs. Oklahoma State has allowed only 93.6 yards rushing per game, but gave up a season-high 189 against Oklahoma last Saturday. The Cowboys have allowed just nine rushing touchdowns this season.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Baylor: Senior linebacker Terrel Bernard missed the first game against the Cowboys with a knee injury, but he’s ready for this one. He’s second on the team with 62 tackles and has a team-high five sacks.

Oklahoma State: Running back Jaylen Warren, the redshirt senior transfer from Utah State, has averaged 108.8 yards rushing while starting the last 10 games.

FACTS & FIGURES

Oklahoma State won its only other Big 12 title in 2011, the first of six seasons in a row when there wasn’t a title game. … Baylor is one of five FBS teams that hasn’t allowed more than 30 points in a game this year. … This is the first time the Cowboys will play the same team twice in a season since 1908. … Oklahoma State has a chance to beat top-10 teams in back-to-back games for the second time in school history. The previous time was in October 1976. The Sooners were No. 10 last week when they lost 37-33 in Bedlam. … Baylor’s defense has forced a turnover in 20 consecutive games.

American Athletic Conference

Houston (11-1, 8-0 American Athletic Conference, No. 21 CFP) at No. 3 (Cincinnati (12-0, 8-0, No. 4), Saturday at 4 p.m. EST (ABC).

Line: Cincinnati by 10 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Series record: Houston leads 15-12.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

The American Athletic Conference championship is on the line for both teams, but the stakes are greater for Cincinnati, which is in position to become the first non-Power Five team to reach the College Football Playoff. The Bearcats are ranked No. 4 in this week’s rankings. The final rankings will be announced on Dec. 5.

KEY MATCHUP

The Bearcats need to be wary of Cougars senior Marcus Jones, who has two kickoff return touchdowns and two punt return TDs. On defense, Jones leads the nation with five interceptions, but his big plays on special teams have been game-changers for Houston.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Houston: QB Clayton Tune threw 191 passes without an interception this season. In his past seven games, Tune has passed for 2,029 yards, 19 touchdowns, and two interceptions.

Cincinnati: Junior RB Jerome Ford ranks eighth nationally with 17 rushing touchdowns, but he’s been especially effective at home, rushing for 678 yards and 12 TDs in Nippert Stadium.

FACTS & FIGURES

Cincinnati has won 26 straight at Nippert Stadium, which is the second-longest home winning streak in the country behind Clemson (34). … Houston’s 11-game win streak is one shy of the program record and third-longest nationally behind Georgia (16) and Cincinnati (12). … Houston and Cincinnati are among four FBS teams ranked in the top 10 nationally in both scoring offense and total defense, joining Alabama and Georgia. … Houston leads the all-time series 15-12, but Cincinnati has won two straight and seven of nine.

Pacific-12 Conference

No. 10 Oregon (10-2, 7-2 Pac-12, No. 10 CFP) vs. No. 14 Utah (9-3, 8-1, No. 17), Friday at 8 p.m. EST (ABC) in Las Vegas.

Line: Utah by 2½, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Series record: Oregon leads 23-11.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

The Ducks are seeking to become the first team to win three straight Pac-12 titles and make it to the Rose Bowl. The Utes are seeking their first Pac-12 championship in their third trip to the title game and first Rose Bowl appearance.

KEY MATCHUP

Oregon RB Travis Dye vs. Utah LB Devin Lloyd. Dye is one of the most dynamic running backs in the conference, ranking second in the Pac-12 with 16 TDs, including 13 in the past seven games. Lloyd is one of the top defensive players in the country with 22 tackles for loss. That’s second in the nation to Will Anderson’s 28 for Alabama.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Oregon: QB Anthony Brown leads the Pac-12 with 264.8 yards of total offense per game with 16 TD passes, four INTs and nine TD runs. Brown struggled in the first meeting against Utah, completing only 48.6% of his passes for 231 yards and being held to 8 yards rushing.

Utah: QB Cam Rising has 17 TD passes and only three INTs this season and helped turn the Utes season around when he took over as starter after a 1-2 start. Rising has also rushed for 346 yards and five TDs and has helped the Utes lead the Pac-12 in scoring in conference games.

FACTS & FIGURES

The Utes won at home 38-7 two weeks ago for its third win in eight meetings vs. Oregon since joining the Pac-12 in 2011. … The Ducks won the only previous conference title meeting 37-15 in 2019. … Utah has won five straight games. … Oregon is 4-0 on Pac-12 title games. … The Utes are first in the Pac-12 and 13th nationally in rushing offense with 218.2 yards per game and have gotten 100-yard games from Tavion Thomas, TJ Pledger and Micah Bernard. … Oregon is 47 for 74 (63.5%) on third down over the last six games. … Ducks DB Verone McKinley III is tied for the national lead with five INTs this season.